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Recap of the 'Dentsunami' that led to Ashish Bhasin's exit from the network

Ashish Bhasin's exit from Dentsu is the biggest and, from the looks of it, last, in a long series of movements over the last few months. Quick recap.

Dentsu international confirmed, earlier today (November 12, 2021), that Ashish Bhasin, CEO, dentsu APAC & Chairman India, will be ending his 13-year-long tenure with the network. He has sought early retirement from the network.

This may seem like just another exit - it is, after all, the season for top level movements in the advertising, media and marketing industries - but it needs to be seen in the context of the recent goings on at Dentsu; Bhasin's exit is the biggest and, from the looks of it, last, in a long series of senior level movements at the network over the last few months.

In fact, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to liken Bhasin's exit from Denstu to the falling of the last domino in what has turned out to be a long chain of events at Dentsu.

Here's a quick recap:

The departures began with Gopa Menon (COO, Isobar) in July, followed by Rubeena Singh (CEO, iProspect), Vivek Bhargava (CEO, DAN Performance Group), Gautam Mehra (chief data and product officer, APAC, and CEO, DAN Programmatic) and Anand Bhadkamkar (CEO, dentsu India) in August. The next month saw Shamsuddin Jasani (Group MD, South Asia, Isobar) and Taproot Dentsu India co-founders Agnello Dias and Santosh Padhi resigning within days of each other. Haresh Nayak (president, Posterscope Asia Pacific) and Sahil Arora (head, CSR, Indeed) were the next.

Recently, there have been a couple of high-profile hires at the network as well – Mindshare’s Vinod Thadani joined as chief digital growth officer, dentsu Media Group and CEO, iProspect. Ajay Gahlaut moved from Publicis to dentsu Creative India as group CCO.

There are two theories explaining this churn at the network in India. One, the global management’s desire to consolidate and restructure all its agency brands, to make dentsu 2.0 the ‘most integrated network’ by 2024. In India, the target appears to be 2022-end.

Second, the future of advertising is going to be tech and for agencies to compete with ad tech/mar tech firms they need to restructure and consolidate. No major consultancy has 20-30 ‘company brands’ in a single market. So, going forward, networks will have to operate with lesser agency brands.

Until recently, the network had 23 brands under its umbrella. It is looking to bring its existing set of shops under six go-to-market agency brands - Carat, Merkle, dentsu X, iProspect, Dentsu mcgarrybowen and Isobar. Every agency will fall under one of three service lines - media, creative, CXM.

Of course, experts and agency insiders have attributed this churn to more than just consolidation - recently, PwC conducted a special audit of Dentsu's financial books. Read more about this here.

In this context, it's not surprising to hear of Bhasin’s exit. Many industry insiders had predicted that in these slew of exits, he would be the last domino to fall. With his exit, the churn that began in July this year, seems to have come to its end.